NORMAN — The Big 12 Track and Field Championships is like no other meet for Oklahoma. For the Sooners, conference is personal.
The Sooners are in Columbia, Mo., today through Sunday at the Audrey J. Walton Track & Field Stadium. In the midst of one of the program’s finest season, the women enter ranked No. 4 in the nation and the men No. 10.
Still, it will take an upset of sorts for either squad to win a conference title. The Texas A&M men and women are both ranked No. 1. The Texas Tech men are ranked No. 4.
The OU women have never won a Big 12 championship. The men won the conference indoor crown over the winter, but last won the outdoor title in 2004. They plan to do everything possible to make that happen again this year.
“We are entering everyone in the 5k to see if we can scrape up some more points behind Kevin (Williams) and Rob (Sorrell),” OU’s Jacob Boone said. “We might be putting people in the steeple chase for a change. Basically we are trying to load up every single event possible and see how many points we can get.”
Boone is the top-ranked 1,500-meter runner in the Big 12 and the school record holder in the event with a time of 3:42.19. The Lees Summit, Mo., native will only be a few miles from home as he tries to win his first conference championship in the event. Still, fueling him is the possibility of nailing down a team title.
“Our distance team is basically trying to make a huge impact for the track team and help us carry on through Big 12,” Boone said. “(We) hope for quite a bit of points and hopefully come out with another Big 12 title.”
While Boone grew up in Big 12 country, junior Eric Bailey hails from Portland, Ore. He’s the Big 12’s No. 2 ranked 400-meter hurdler, which has come as a surprise to even him
“It’s been above expectations,” Bailey said. “I didn’t really expect to be ranked No. 2 going into Big 12 … But I’m hungry for more. I want our team to go out and do well at Big 12. I’m excited.”
Bailey’s outdoor season began with a a win in the 400-meter hurdles at the Bobby Lane Invitational in a time of 51.69. He placed fourth at the Texas Relays and earned his second and third titles at the Sun Angel Track Classic and Texas Invitational.
“For me, it’s just setting goals every week,” said Bailey, who wants to get below the 50-second mark. “Trying to set new goals and standards for my self to go after. If you don’t have a goal to go after, it’s kind of hard to stay motivated.”
Bailey knows he will have his hands full at the conference meet.
“I want to go in and surprise people at Big 12s,” Bailey said. “I know Bryce Brown of Texas Tech is ranked No. 1, but I think it’s going to be a close race and I want to give him a run for his money.”
Coming away with a individual title would be nice for Bailey, but he wants a team title, too.
“It would be huge for me, but even bigger than that, it would be big for the team,” Bailey said. “We can really use the points. It’s going to be race between us, A&M, Texas Tech and Nebraska. Any points that we can scrape up anywhere will definitely be a big help.”
Michael Kinney 366-3537 firstname.lastname@example.org